Building a creative life has so many benefits — but a crew of work friends to catch up with around the water cooler is rarely, if ever, one of them.
There’s a good reason for that: many creatives prefer to have quiet, solo time for their individual creations. But even the creators we know who are introverts frequently express a desire to connect with other people doing similar work that they are. A mastermind group is a particular kind of peer support group specifically made for that.
The intention behind a mastermind group is simple. The term was coined by Napoleon Hill in the 1920s when he described what happens when two or more people come together: a third mind, which he called the “Master Mind,” is created. In his book Think and Grow Rich, he described the mastermind meeting structure as “a friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.”
Basically, it’s a peer support group for leveling up.
“Sitting at home in my office with no human interaction is torture for me as a creator!” said Dixie De La Tour, who runs Bawdy Storytelling, when asked about why she created a mastermind group with folks in the sexuality field. “It let me get together regularly with other smart people and say, ‘I have most of an idea, but I’m stuck. Here’s what I need help with.’ They helped me problem solve, and to create systems.”
Conceptual artist and sexuality activist Midori has also been in a mastermind group. “It’s a place to be supported, be challenged, held accountable; to be totally honest about fears, doubts, drives, and successes,” she told us. “It’s been really helpful to have a group of people who are genuinely supportive and understand first hand the trials and grind of being working artists. We remind each other of the tangible and intangible worth of our work — work that is visible to our market and the work that isn’t visible.”
So how do you find a mastermind group? Ideally, we would all just go join existing masterminds. There are folks out there who do lead professional mastermind groups but keep in mind that they are often fee-based. If you’re feeling inspired to join a mastermind group, asking your own community is a great place to start.
But, if you already have particular ideas about who you’d want to team up with, or how you’d want the group to be structured, take a leap and consider starting one yourself.
When you are reaching out to people to create a mastermind group with, it is best to craft a message that outlines precisely what it is you’re asking for. There should be room for what each individual brings to and needs in the group, but it will make it much easier for others to say yes if they know exactly what you’re requesting.
Here are some questions you should answer before putting together a mastermind group:
What do you want your mastermind group to be for, exactly? Is it to support each other in learning how to podcast? Sharing actionable tips on increasing profits? To share accountability for a writing project? Or maybe you’re excited to help each other set clear goals and report on them for accountability? Maybe this becomes your group’s mission statement. It’s important for you, as the founder of the group, to be very clear about what you want, to ensure that those you invite can tell if they are a good match or not.
Before you launch into creative collaboration, make some agreements you plan on keeping Some of the most important questions to ask are what is the commitment of this group, and will we meet monthly, quarterly, or yearly? You’ll also want to decide if there’s a process for removing oneself from the group and what that process entails. Plus, you’ll want to outline what the expectations of participation are so that everyone is contributing equally. What if there’s a conflict between members? How will that be deal with? And, of course, what are the core values that you and the group desire to share?
In our experience, successful mastermind groups re-commit in intervals. For instance, every quarter you and your group can check in and consider if it’s still serving everyone’s best interest and make necessary changes that are in alight with the core values of the group. This means you’ll keep changing as your needs change and so members who no longer feel invested in the group can part ways with little friction.
Now that you’ve decided on how often you’ll meet you’ll want to get deeper into the logistics. Are there planned check-ins in between meetings? Do you connect over a Slack channel or Facebook group to chat when you aren’t in person? Will the group only meet virtually? And, if so, what type of technology will be used to connect? If you prefer meeting in person, figure out if a local coffee shop is the best place to meet or if you’d prefer hoping between each member’s home. Also, figure out how long each individual meeting will last and how long the mastermind group will run, whether that’s eight weeks, a year, or indefinitely.
Give thought to how you’d like the meetings to be structured. Will everyone get half an hour during each meeting to use however they wish — brainstorming, feedback, problem-solving? Would there be a 2-minute check-in at the beginning of every meeting? You might also think about bringing in experts as guest speakers. You don’t have to have every detail ironed out, but a general sketch of your structure will set you up for success.
In our experience, a group of four to six people seems to be the sweet spot. Too few, and it’s hard for the group to take advantage of multiple ideas, plus when someone has to miss a meeting it no longer feels like a mastermind. But, too many, and it’s hard for everyone to have enough time for collaborating while also getting their own personal projects done.
When pondering about who you’d like to ask to collaborate, think about people you know well but also consider people you only sort of know who are doing similar things to you. Don’t be afraid to ask folks in your field who you respect and would love to learn from and whose work you are excited to support. You might perceive those creators to be “more successful” than you are — but, they might be struggling too, and extremely honored to receive an invitation. Remember: if you don’t ask, the answers always no.
Once you have a few folks on board to meet for a trial run, consider some exercises to help you and your new colleagues in creation get and stay on the same page. Don’t be afraid to get reflective. Many of us creators work best on our own, and while humans are hard-wired to want to be part of groups, we can also have strong aversions to it. Consider the relationship you have with the idea of groups. What have your favorite group experiences looked like? What have the challenging group experiences looked like? What benefits have working in groups given to you? What do you fear about it? Remember to also ask what skills you can bring to the group. In what areas are you totally rocking it? What expertise are you eager to share?
Make sure to celebrate each other’s successes. Be each other’s biggest fans. Show up at all the gigs. Heart every Instagram post. And maybe, just maybe, you can practice taking in a little bit of that celebration for your own successes, too. Never forget that all mastermind groups will grow and change as the people in them grow and change. Make room for that, and build in structures to support that process. The growth, after all, is the point.
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